The Words We Use
Violence is so endemic in our society and workplaces that we rarely notice it. Nor notice its effects.
Why does it matter? Well, we humans generally feel less happy when victims of violence – however minor or unremarked. But setting aside that general point, anything that negatively impacts our state of mind has similarly negative implications for knowledge workers’ productivity and the quality of that work.
“Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.”
~ Peter Drucker
And one wildly underreported source of such difficulty is the unwitting violence that happens every day in our relationships at work.
To illustrate how unaware we can be about the violence we do to ourselves and others, you might like to consider some examples. Examples of some commonly used words which not only seem innocuous, but even carry imagined positive connotations. Even these oft-lauded words can harbour implicit violence:
Most folks take this to mean e.g. self-discipline = forcing, compelling or otherwise obliging ourselves to do things we feel we should be doing. And disciplining others = forcing them, mainly through fear, obligation guilt, shame (FOGS), or the threat of punishment, to do the things we feel they should be doing.
Many folks take “professionalism” to mean “constrained by expectations about how something should be done”. Here again, if we but reflect a moment, we may see the violence inherent in this idea. For example, the fear of e.g. a sanction such as ridicule or shame, when one’s behaviour does not conform to that expected of a “professional”.
This notion often translates to an expectation of obligation. If we are responsible for something, then we (or others) expect us to act in certain ways. Once more, we may choose to see this as raising issues of self-violence (where we take a responsibility upon ourselves) or violence done to us (where the responsibility is conferred – explicitly or implicitly – by other people, or even by rules, policy, social mores, etc.).
We Can Choose Our Words
There are, of course, hundreds if not thousands of other words, in many languages, which carry an implication of violence. How often are we aware of those implications when choosing words, and of the consequences of such choices?
Would you be willing to share some words which you find violent, in effect?
Domination Systems – Duen Hsi Yen